Prison Firefighters Report Life-Changing Experiences

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Giving Compass’ Take:

• This article from The Marshall Project shares a story from a past inmate who became a prison firefighter and how it changed his life for the better. 

• What can we learn from these stories? What other policy reforms can help those recently let out of prisons?

• Read more about how incarcerated workers often play a huge role in fighting wildfires.


There’s a full-fledged firehouse equipped with engines at San Quentin Prison. To work for the department, prisoners have to interview with the fire chief and captains and go before a panel composed of the warden and other staff.

You have to be a good fit and know how to work in a team. And they only consider people who have a record of good behavior within the last five years—that means few or no disciplinary write-ups or infractions. You cannot have been convicted of arson, sex offenses, murder or attempted escape.

When I applied in 2016, I had five years left in my sentence. Dozens of guys were trying to get into the firehouse, but they only take nine to 12 at a time. I thought I was in great shape. But I was nowhere close to being in firefighting shape. We had to be able to hike more than a mile…



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